A while back Sunny posted on the treatment Joseph Harker recieved on his concern over St George’s flags in London. Interestingly there’s a somewhat similar post at The New Republic’s World Cup Blog by Jesse Zwick, an American Jew, over his initial response to landing in Germany in the midst of a nationalistic fervour not seen since the Nazi’s.
However Jesse’s views changed as he saw the crowd at the Germany-Poland game react to the introduction of the exciting young black player David Odonkor. As Jesse says,
“When this young black man appeared on the sidelines to the loudest cheers I had heard all night from my German companions, something inside me changed. I no longer feared the cheers of “Deutcsh-land” that came pouring forth, but rather embraced them. For if this new German nationalism can embrace a half-Ghanaian boy as its national hero, its good enough for me. And when his cross led to German ecstasy across the country, I too, I must admit, was ecstatic.
Without a doubt Britain is also being enveloped by patriotic zeal. Events such as winning the Olympics and the Ashes have given Team England a seemingly unshakeable confidence. However unlike before race and nationality seem to have gone down different paths. Whereas previously the St George’s flag was used by the National Front, its now embraced by people as diverse as Wayne Rooney and Monty Panesar. The colour of the passport has replaced the colour of the skin as the object which even the popular press looks too. After the last Olympics, Amir Khan and Kelly Holmes received as much if not more publicity than someone like Matthew Pinsent.
Of course one can’t be too optimistic as there are always dangers. Firstly the French Football team was hailed as a multi-racial symbol of the ‘new France’ and a triumph over Le Pen’s National Front. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that Le Pen got over 20% of the vote in the last Presidential elections. He’s expected to do well next time as well.
Secondly not everyone is blessed with the same talent as a Ravinder Bopara (will be in the England Cricket team sooner rather than later) or Syed from the Apprentice. A lot of people have to get through the drudgery of everyday life often unemployed, or facing the inevitable politics of the workplace, where they may be isolated as being outsiders for any number of reasons.
Finally I think its possible to argue that race has been replaced by Xenophobia as the predominant worry in the UK. This can be seen in the hostility to white Eastern European migrants and the EU in general, Asylum seekers from anywhere other than Zimbabwe and the position of England football manager.
I don’t support the Tebbitt test, but while I think its important to remain vigilent of future Tebbits there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. Amir Khan’s father celebrated his son’s triumph at Athens as being a victory for both Britain and Pakistan and the nation responded. Monty Panesar is accepted in the England team despite his beard and turban proving you don’t have to be as anglocised as Nasser Hussain to suceed. The only question which remains for the time being – whether too support that pesky, paraguay shirt wearing, Scottish tennis brat also known as Andy Murray.
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Filed in: Race politics,Sports